Dictation redux

Peirce 55-B dictation wire recorder from 1945....
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A while back, I posted about using dictation in EFL classes. I recently gave dictations in my final exams, and reading the results taught me some further uses for dictation.

  • Students failed to notice how a falling intonation indicated the end of a sentence. I did not announce the punctuation, as I had not consistently done so in earlier dictations, and did not want to start now (or then, i.e. in the middle of an exam). It had not occurred to me that the significance of falling intonation was not obvious and needs to be taught. They put full-stops where there should have been commas, and failed to put full-stops (or subsequent capital letters) where they were indicated by meaning and by my falling intonation.
  • Dictation can be used to not only test (or review) known or previously taught vocabulary, but also to test if students have acquired enough patterns of English spelling to make a reasonable guess at spelling unfamiliar words. (All my students failed miserably at “champagne”.)
  • The dictation revealed grammatical weaknesses I had not covered (I assumed students had acquired enough English, but I was wrong), e.g.:  I gave New Year’s presents two my children.
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